Today marks a year since my Grandmother Vera walked on from this life. It is no less heartbreaking than the moment I heard the news. I remember getting the phone call from my Mom, and cousin. At first, I was not able to answer immediately, as I was on a walk with the twins I nannied. When we got back to the house, I decided to just ring my mom, instead of listening to the voicemails. As soon as I heard her voice, I knew something had changed, something was missing.
The thing about death is that it does change you, almost shifting chemicals around inside so much that the tone of the voices alters a bit, and the cadence of speech becomes loose; undone for the grieving process to begin. And what of grief? Well, I don’t think it really ever leaves you, but nestles in like a cat curled up in a tight ball. Sometimes grief needs tending. Other times, it wants to be left alone. Either way, it becomes companion, and living with it will inevitably transforms the one who grieves. It serves us in a way, inciting a continual reminder to experience love as deep as we can.
This interview was first published in the Winter 2011 edition of Woodland Native Peoples
Author: Christian Totty
July 30, 2011
Voices Of Our Elders: An Interview Vera McGee
Today, while the rain cascades outside of my window in Chicago, I get to write about my Grandmother, Vera McGee. My Grandmother is a woman who I’ve always been amazed by. She possess a solid personal power that is palpable, and rooted from a deep place within. During our interview my Grandmother approached each question with a sense of ease and candor, not shying away from to- the- point responses, or admitting when she was ready to move on. The following is just a taste of my Grandmother’s rich, determined story.
Vera McGee (Williams) was born to a farming family in Paulding, OH in 1926. She and her family were living sustainably years before it was en vogue. I credit much of my interest and concern for environmental issues to my Grandmother’s connection with Mother Earth. It is clear that the life lessons she holds close originate from the knowledge her parents shared with her, as she reflects,
“Skyler Williams, and Pearl Williams are my Mother and Father, they were wonderful people and I learned a lot from each of them”.
My Grandmother attended Powers Elementary, a one room school where she and her sisters started their singing group, “The Milk Maids”. “I sang in church a lot”, she says modestly of her creative passion. In her teen years, my Grandmother continued to flex her vocal chords when she moved to Havliland, OH at the age of fourteen. There she sang in the high school choir until the time she graduated in 1944 at the age of eighteen. For the next three years she would toggle back and forth between Havliland and Lima, where she stayed with her sister Juanita. She finally moved to Lima in 1947 at the age of twenty- one, and got married shortly thereafter. Over the next sixty years she would give birth to seven amazing children, and is now the proud grandmother of over twenty grandchildren and great-grandchildren. To this day my Grandmother maintains a solid self- care practice by eating right, getting exercise, doing puzzles, and going out with friends.
Through the ebb and flow of my Grandmother’s life time on this earth, her faith stands tall & strong. Ask anyone and they will tell you, that her presence as a human being transcends her 4′ 11” stature. When I asked her about her identity and when she truly knew herself, she confidently replied, “I’ve known that all my life! (laughter) Ever since I can rememberr!”
To me, she transcends the ordinary into the extraordinary with her wisdom and spirit. To me she is Grandma, inspirational in every way!